Faith Daniels

That's racist, Matthew Theunissen

2016-05-05 07:09

Faith Daniels

There are days like today where I have no apt description for how I feel. Sad is too short a word. Angry too strong a word. But it's somewhere there. In between those two. Thankfully this usually doesn't last long because, let's face it, if you had to be floored by every racist rant, stupid remark or vitriol that some pass off as innocent comment, frank debate or speaking in the heat of the moment – you and your frail self won't get very far. Yep, some South Africans can really test your faith in humanity. And then some.

So there we were, still getting over the Penny Sparrow monkey madness of a couple of months ago… dealing with the heavy fallout and reaction to her remarks that at times bordered on hate speech and racist itself.

Then Matthew Theunissen makes his entrance with a Facebook post, which he deleted in seconds, apparently because he regretted posting it almost instantly. But as we've come to realise – social media is unforgiving. Your thoughts will be out there faster than you can sneeze and, before you come to your full senses, you and your ill-conceived ideas are trending on Twitter.

Here's how Matthew explained his actions in a nutshell during a radio interview: "I was angry, my educated self can't find a job, I wanted to vent at the fact that the Sports Minister announced a decision to revoke the privileges of some sporting codes because of a lack of transformation. I'm not a racist, I have non-white friends. My friends and family will tell you I'm not racist."

Yes, well, no, fine but you are, Matthew. And here's why. Those were/are your thoughts. That's how you feel and now everyone knows it. If this is how non-racists speak and think, I fear for what "real" racists have in store for us. I realised that you didn't quite understand the gravity of the situation and the hurt you've caused when you were asked about your use of the word c**t.

"Well, I thought the whole problem was the use of the K-word?" Yes, alrighty then. Moving right along.

One has no excuse, no comeback, no defence for statements like this. More than 20 years into our democracy these are the debates we are forced to have and the utterances we must analyse – it feels like a constant uphill battle. Like very little progress has indeed been made. At least we got an "I'm sorry," I suppose. It's now up to the Human Rights Commission to decide on the next step.

What these comments all have in common is that people claim to have spoken and acted out in anger. And somehow that must be the mitigating factor – the state of affairs in the country angers me, my circumstances anger me, I can't find a job and therefore I am angry. Yes, you are angry, but you are also racist. Because you not only let us know about your situation, but also about the thoughts you keep about your country, fellow countrymen and those who lead us – in the most vile of ways. Rather than launching a petition to highlight your issue, rather than protesting or writing an open letter, you chose spewing racist venom.

As if on cue, I stumbled on Trevor Noah's That’s Racist stand-up comedy routine, currently running on DStv. In true Noah style he tells South Africans not to give the K-word so much power. To strip it of its intent to hurt and offend by just using it nje – to not let the word own you – in fact to change the meaning of the word altogether. Maybe I switched over at the wrong time 'cause not even Trevor could make me smile about this one. It's still the K-word. It's still racist. It still hurts.

- Faith Daniels is a seasoned radio and TV journalist, and is currently head of news at Kagiso Media’s Jacaranda FM and East Coast Radio.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.



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